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Walking is a step in the right direction

Another View
By: Chris Palkowski, MD
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Television, the Internet, smart phones, and other high-tech devices have had a dramatic impact on our daily lives. The world is practically at our fingertips, and we can seemingly get just about anything we want with a simple click, touch or swipe.

These technological advances have led to many positive and revolutionary changes in our daily lives. At the same time, though, they have also helped create a population that is more sedentary and less healthy.

Chronic conditions - including diabetes, asthma and obesity ­- are a growing problem in the United States, and they account for more than 75 percent of all health-care spending in this country. The good news, though, is that many of these types of conditions can be effectively managed and even prevented, and it's as simple as putting one foot in front of the other.

Research tells us that walking just 30 minutes a day, five days a week, leads to measurable health benefits. I've seen it, and so have many of my colleagues - we have patients who have dropped significant amounts of weight, reduced their blood pressure, and lowered their bad cholesterol level because they started walking regularly.

It seems simple, doesn't it?

Walking regularly provides numerous health benefits, which is why Kaiser Permanente launched a national program last year - called "Every Body Walk!" -that encourages walking for better health. The website, www.everybodywalk.org, is a valuable resource for families and individuals, providing health tips from fitness experts and connecting people with walking groups across the country. There's also a smart-phone app to personalize walking plans and track the amount of time walked, the distance covered and the calories burned.

On a local level, Kaiser Permanente is launching a walking club this Saturday at Westfield Galleria at Roseville. The club, which is open to all members and nonmembers of Kaiser Permanente, is called Walk to Thrive, and physicians and health professionals will lead regularly scheduled walks and monthly health education seminars.

Club participants will have access to the mall in the morning before stores open, so they can benefit from a peaceful, climate-controlled walking environment, with no traffic, no intersections to cross, and a route they can enjoy with friends. We want to encourage people to get and stay active, and to have fun with their family and friends while they walk to improve their health.

There is no cost to join the club. In fact, we're so eager to share our passion about staying healthy that we're giving free T-shirts and pedometers to those who attend the inaugural walk, which starts at 8 a.m. Saturday in the mall's Center Court. The Galleria at Roseville, like many other shopping centers, already opens its main doors early, so people can do their morning walks in a controlled environment.

Walk to Thrive is modeled after successful walking programs at several of our medical offices, including those in Lincoln, Rancho Cordova and Sacramento, where dozens of people, some with chronic conditions, meet regularly to walk and improve their health.

The health benefits of walking are too numerous to ignore.

Walking strengthens the heart. Walking can prevent or reverse Type 2 diabetes. Walking strengthens bones and muscles, helping to prevent osteoporosis. Walking causes the body to release chemicals that improve mood and reduce depression, anxiety and stress.

And walking, of course, burns calories.

Anyone interested in joining the first walk should plan to show up at 8 a.m., Saturday in the mall's Center Court, and register at: www.kpwalktothrive.org.

Chris Palkowski, MD, is physician-in-chief of Kaiser Permanente Roseville Medical Center, and medical offices in Lincoln, Folsom, Roseville and Rancho Cordova.